The Rise of Ghosting

If you don’t know what ghosting is, it is a term for when someone who you have had regular contact with via a digital format such as telephone, email, social media etc suddenly starts ignoring you. The recipient is usually unaware that they have been ghosted until they realise that the person they are trying to contact hasn’t replied for a considerable period of time.

Why does this happen

Dependent on the circumstances you could argue that it be for several reasons. For example, an obvious relationship breakdown where one partner no longer wants to be with another could be simply explained. “Ignore them and they’ll get the message”. Often Ghosting isn’t a sudden or unexpected tactic when it comes to a relationship split as generally signs leading to a communication cut off would have preceded it.

However, for the sake of argument we will be focusing in this post on recruitment ghosting. This is when a candidate who a recruiter has had a good deal of regular contact with suddenly starts ghosting them.

A Typical Example

Rather than look at the easily explainable situation where a candidate is out to two jobs, accepts one and then ignores the other jobs recruiter after accepting, I’d rather look more at the general problem.

A candidate applies for a job and is therefore an “Active Candidate” in the market. The recruiter establishes contact with the candidate and so the relationship begins. The candidate is interviewed, the recruiter tells them about the job and, presuming the candidate is genuinely interested, the recruiter progresses their CV. The interview goes through a 1st stage. Mr candidate gives strong interview feedback and is very keen to progress. The client is pleased also and arranges a 2nd interview. Mr candidate attends the 2nd interview and gives solid feedback and asks the recruiter if they could get feedback from the client as they are really keen on this. The recruiter gets feedback from the client which is positive and calls and leaves a message for Mr candidate to call them back.

Then…nothing. The recruiter texts, emails and calls back again a few hours later. Still…nothing. Not a dickie bird. Zero. Silence. Sound Crazy?

Two Occasions in the last 30 days

Yes. This exact circumstance has happened to me twice in the last 30 days. On both occasions with long term regular clients who seemed bemused as to where the candidate had gone.

I could understand it if the client offered them the job and the offer was insulting or if the candidate’s feedback from an interview indicated that they hated the job. But when the preceding conversation was the candidate asking me to get the feedback from the client for them, I’m utterly bewildered as to why they’d chose to Ghost me before receiving this information. I can’t make head nor tail of that.

More Common Examples

One Common example is when a candidate who you’ve asked and sometimes double checked that they are definitely interested in a particular job then chooses to ignore you when you contact them again to inform them that you’ve secured them an interview. And to stress, I’m not a pushy recruiter. If you’re not interested, what benefit is it to me in getting you an interview and then you not wanting the job? I’d just lose my credibility with my clients.

Another common example is what is known as a no-show. This is when a candidate who an interview has been arranged with does not show up for that interview and then ghosts the recruiter afterwards. This isn’t anything new, but it is on the rise.

Possible Reasons for Ghosting a Recruiter

It is important to be unbiased. This is not just to be fair, but more so to try to at least understand why Ghosting happens and is on the increase.

The first thing that springs to mind is a pushy recruiter. Unfortunately, in some boiler room style recruitment agencies it is quantity, hard sales and high pressure managers that cause this. Think dodgy car dealerships or back street mobile phone shops where a group of slick dressed gift of the gab sales people start friendly, but then get pushy when they can’t close your sale. If you consider that sales as a career has gained negative press with many members of the public viewing sales people as being untrustworthy and you start to form a picture. Unlike face to face sales where you cannot simply run away, you can blank someone via digital methods easily.

Perhaps then it is fear of confrontation or avoidance of having a difficult conversation that sees people ghost their recruiter. Why put yourself through it if you don’t have to?

Cultural Changes

I have spoken to many people who claim to regularly ghost their friends on a social level. They’ll admit that they didn’t use to, but times have changed, and some people claim that nearly everyone does it.

It is at the ripe old age of 32 that I suddenly feel very old if this is true. I see ghosting someone as a pretty low thing to do. Not quite as bad as anonymous death threats or poisoning their cat. That’d be extreme. But at the same level as bad mouthing them without any justification or stealing their lunch. Only a douche would do those things. But ghosting someone simply because you cannot be bothered talking to them seems like not a very friendly thing to do. If any of my friends did that to me, I probably wouldn’t be their friend much longer. I’d also probably confront them on it to see what the problem is the next time I saw them. Yet Ghosting isn’t unique to young people.

Of the people I spoke to, there are a range of ages from teenage cousins through to those in their forties and fifties. Admittedly the younger you go the more ghosting seems to be seen as normal, but never the less it is not unique to younger people.

Why is this seen as Socially Acceptable?

Although I’ve been told it’s just the way things are, I still can’t understand how people still have any friends if they treat their own mates this way. Maybe on a social level, friendships are a lot loser than they used to be with only a few close friends. I’ll admit that I know a lot of people, but could easily count the people I class as my real friends on the fingers on just one hand.

The issue it seems is that if people will treat their own friends this way, no wonder they treat recruiters like it. Also, candidates could understandably be concerned that we could get pushy and so it’s easy to see why ghosting happens


The recruitment industry itself, like most that the masses have dealings with, have good and bad amongst its ranks. The problem is that whilst LinkedIn loves to celebrate the good examples, it is the bad ones that leave a lasting impression.

Take the news as an example. The only goods news you read is about sporting wins or Royal Weddings. 90% of the news, and most importantly what sells because it gives the talking points, are the bad news stories. Whilst Recruitment companies project brand marketing to attract employees and pat themselves on the back about how they have cleaned the plastic bottles off a local beach, the general public seem to have an increasingly negative relationship with the industry.

For most industries a regulator exists that is government appointed to ensure that certain guidelines and standards are met. This weeds out the cowboys and ensures a certain expectation is met. Sure, it doesn’t work perfectly, but any bad news is more of an isolated scandal than a generic reputation. And yes, there are regulators in the recruitment industry, but they are not mandatory and have little power to change anything. It’s more a logo for a recruiter to carry that says we’re trustworthy. Yet, even I know that many of the firms that are members of those regulators aren’t squeaky clean. I therefore question how effective a membership based regulator really is.

One Regulatory Body

A solution should be one official regulatory body that has power and sets standards. If you do the job properly, you have nothing to worry about. This will professionalise the industry. It won’t solve the reputation issues overnight but give it ten years and most people will have confidence and trust in the service that recruiters provide.

Will this solve ghosting though?

Probably not. If people are willing to ghost their friends, they’ll ghost a company without a second thought. Therefore, although I feel a regulatory body will help in some circumstances and will help the industry in other ways, it won’t solve ghosting as a problem. At best it’ll have a minor impact.

How do you solve Ghosting then?

You can’t. If ghosting is seen as acceptable what chance do you have? Smoking in a pub or restaurant was seen as socially acceptable in the past. But following 2007’s smoking ban if you were to light up you’d be removed, probably fined and arrested. You can’t legally ban someone from ghosting people though.


For me the reasons behind ghosting someone without any considerable justification can be categorised as either ignorant (literally), cowardly, selfish or disrespectful. If you’re dealing with a recruiter and you don’t want the job, just say. If you happen to be dealing with douche of a recruiter and despite you trying to be reasonable, they still won’t listen, put the phone down.

Most recruiters are not douches. We are hard working people who want to be professional and deliver a great service. Just tell us how it is. Be an adult. The fact is that if you can make it in recruitment, which is a career where despite working your socks off, 90% of the job is rejection and failure, you’re used to hearing the word no. We’re used to it. It’s not a problem. I’m not going to go crying to my wife every time a candidate tells me they don’t want a job. It’s fine. I would rather know where I stand than spend my efforts trying to build you up to my client if you’re not even interested. What a waste of my time that’d be.

If you don’t want something, just say no. It’s not that hard.

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